Hurricane Ian: strategic preparation, critical response

December 14, 2022

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By Beau Bishop, SVP, catastrophe operations, Mark Della Giustina, VP, building consulting services, and John Gragson, SVP, operations

After plowing through the Caribbean, Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida on Sept. 28 as a dangerous Category 4 storm.

The catastrophic event took the lives of nearly 150 people and caused an estimated $70 billion in property damage in the U.S.; it’s likely the costliest storm in Florida’s history. Ian’s timing and trajectory caught many off guard, as predictive models had it arriving two days later and hitting further north.

As a major provider of catastrophe response services, we know that rule No. 1 with CATs is to expect the unexpected. Thanks to a winning combination of experience, preparation, expertise, flexibility and breadth and depth of resources, the Sedgwick property team was ready — in the right place at the right time — to help our insurance carrier clients handle the influx of claims associated with Hurricane Ian, and we continue to support their impacted policyholders throughout southwest Florida.

Before the storm

The services we offer are critical to the recovery of any area hit by a natural disaster. Beyond helping individual owners of homes and businesses assess the damage incurred, our adjudication of claims enables much-needed insurance payments and government grant money to flow into affected communities. This jumpstarts economic recovery, the rebuilding process and getting people back home, back to work and back to “normal.” Understanding the role we play as part of the first wave of catastrophe response makes our preparedness all the more important.

Beyond our annual readiness efforts in anticipation of Atlantic hurricane season, our targeted preparation for Ian began weeks before the expected severity of the storm made headline news. We were continually watching the weather models to gauge Ian’s magnitude, timing and direction, as well as examining the Florida footprints of our major insurer clients in the storm’s various possible paths. Throughout the weeks leading up to Ian, we were in daily contact with clients to plan for funding reserves in accordance with estimates on the resulting claims.

When it became abundantly clear in the days leading up to landfall that Ian would be a catastrophic event for the state of Florida, we had to make logistical decisions about how best to mobilize our team. These decision points require a delicate balance and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. When it comes to CATs:

  • We want to have a robust team of skilled experts nearby ahead of time to respond quickly, but also must keep our people out of harm’s way.
  • We can’t send our entire team to one area and leave the rest of the country unattended, so a staggered approach is preferable, even amid pressing needs.
  • We aim to begin assessing damage as soon as possible, but first must allow those responsible for restoring power and communication networks and conducting search and rescue/recovery to do their vital work.
  • We must be mindful of residents evacuating the target area and avoid occupying too much temporary housing in the surrounding region.

In the aftermath

Once the coast was clear, our first order of business was information-gathering. Insurer clients look to us to gain access to and inspect affected properties to help them understand the magnitude of the damage and manage their financial and service responsibilities to their policyholders. Our teams have years of experience working closely and safely with first responders, governmental authorities and others on the ground right after a catastrophe event.

In the first 30 days after a CAT, we experience a huge influx of claims. Within two days of Ian, we’d already received thousands of assignments. To ensure the right level of support to meet clients’ varying needs, we relied on our extensive resource network. In accordance with the general rule, about 80% of the claims were low-complexity and could be adjusted quickly. The remaining 20%, on the other hand, were more complex and required more time and specialized expertise. It is on these claims that we turned to various specialty teams within the Sedgwick/EFI Global family, including building consultingrepair solutionsforensic engineeringenvironmental consulting and more. With our collective in-house expertise, we are uniquely positioned to address a wide of client needs, and clients can enjoy the benefits of working with a single partner during an already hectic time.

Caring counts

Although we are in the business of property claims, our ultimate purpose is taking care of people. In the wake of a traumatic storm like Ian, one of the most important thing we deliver is empathy. Oftentimes, our adjusters and professionals are the first people owners of homes and businesses speak to about the damage they incurred and the awful things they experienced during and after a catastrophe. Beyond the technical knowledge needed for loss adjusting, we train our colleagues on the importance of listening carefully, making good on their word, following through quickly, and showing they care. They also know how to assist displaced policyholders in securing temporary housing until their homes are safely inhabitable again. The talented Sedgwick colleagues who do CAT work are on the front lines of conveying our “caring counts” philosophy.

Ian may be nearly three months behind us, but our teams are committed to being there as long as it takes to assist clients and their policyholders with whatever they may need. If we can be of assistance to you, please contact our team at [email protected].

Learn more — see our brochure for additional information on Sedgwick’s property claims solutions for the U.S. market and our flyer for details on our strategic claim resolution services for Ian-related losses

Tags: adjusters, Caring counts, CAT Claim, Cat Insights, CAT response, CAT work, Catastrophe, catastrophe claims, Claims, Damage, Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, Disasters, EFI, EFI Global, Florida, hurricane, Hurricane Ian, Loss adjusting, policyholder, Property, Property damage, Property loss, recovery, temporary housing, View on property, Weather